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The War in the South
Site Publisher's Note: "The War in the South" was the third Cash article for The Mercury, published in February, 1930, forming something of a related trilogy of articles in six months which Cash had cranked out for Mencken. As he began serious work on the book at this time, however, he would not contribute again until October, 1931. While the first article examined North Carolina politics using an exemplar fit as a model for many other areas of Cash's contemporary South, the second article had brushed a broader sweep, examining every major facet of Southern life--politics, economy, culture, religion, race, and individual and societal mores; finally, this third in the series would examine the problems, still extant today, of founding labor unions in the South and the inevitable head-busting violence and Red-baiting which followed the attempt. This article is especially poignant as the deplorable condition of textiles mills in Cash's 1930 still persist today in many such indoor labor camps: witness the explosion in a mill near Burlington, N.C. in 1994, killing several female workers. The explosion was blamed on improper ventilation facilities and consequent build-up of textile dust.
This article, together with "The Mind of the South", were re-printed, along with several editorials by Cash, in a special "Reader" appendix to Joseph L. Morrison's W.J. Cash: Southern Prophet, Knopf, 1967. The commentary below on this article is by Professor Morrison from the biography.
The timeliness of this article lay in its being published on the heels of a wave of anti-union violence in the North Carolina of 1929. Seen in retrospect, this episode marks an important milestone in the history of the American labor movement.
First and foremost among the battles in that war came the world-famed strike at Gastonia, marked by the formation of a vigilante "Committee of One Hundred" against the strikers and the arrival of a Communist leadership headed by the late Fred Erwin Beal. He was later to turn anti- Communist when doing so was unfashionable, before the Hitler-Stalin Pact killed the Popular Front, and he frankly admitted that the Communist mission in 1929 was to exploit the very real misery of the textile workers in the interest of Marxist class struggle.
On June 7, 1929, the Gastonia police chief was shot to death, and a warrant went out for the arrest of Fred Beal as the strike leader. He was not charged with committing or even plotting the murder, the state contending only that he had uttered words that had stirred other unnamed men to violence. Vigilantes of the Committee of One Hundred nearly snatched him from the arresting officers for what would have been a certain lynching. Mindful of the lynch spirit that animated the Gastonia area, the presiding judge granted a motion for a change of venue so that the trial was held in Charlotte.
After one mistrial and a protracted legal battle, Beal and six others were found guilty of second- degree murder, and Beal drew a long prison term. He jumped bail and made his way to the Soviet Union, where he remained three years (1930-3) before returning to the United States disillusioned with Communism. His later autobiography, Proletarian Journey (1937), which pilloried Stalins Russia and made Beal a despised renegade in the eyes of American Communists, nevertheless pictured faithfully the hate-filled atmosphere of Gastonia and the one-sided trial. Beal was extradited to North Carolina, where he was jailed in 1938. His plea for a pardon was not granted by Governor Clyde R. Hoey, who had been the private prosecutor at Beals trial, but the pardon plea was granted by Hoeys successor in 1942.
In the midst of the Gastonia strikers trial, on October 2, 1929, the McDowell County sheriff and all his deputies fired tear gas into the picket lines of strikers at Marion, North Carolina. As soon as the pickets turned their backs to flee, the sheriff and his men opened fire and shot five men to death and wounded twice as many more. Each dead or wounded man was shot in the back. The sheriff was not only freed of a charge of murder but given a state job as a prison guard.
The active anti-union vigilantism in North Carolina began to subside into a more passive disapproval only with the murder of Ella May Wiggins. On September 14, 1929, with Beals trial still in progress, a group of union members from Bessemer City, North Carolina, set out in a truck bound for a mass meeting in South Gastonia. The truck turned back on being chased by an automobile procession of vigilantes, who forced the truck into a ditch and began shooting A bullet killed Mrs. Ella May Wiggins, one of the local strike leaders and mother of five small children. After a Gastonia grand jury refused to indict anyone, Governor 0. Max Gardner insisted on a prosecution. Later the defense attorney for the accused argued that] his clients ought not to be found guilty because the dead woman believed in Communism. The jury agreed; it stayed out thirty minutes and returned with a verdict of not guilty.
While "The War in the South"
bears ample witness to Cashs thorough familiarity with the
Southern textile industry, it marks him as unduly optimistic as
to chances of unionizing Southern mills. A decade later, after an
obdurate union-busting campaign that proceeded in spite of the
Wagner Act, Cash recorded himself as a pessimist. In his book of
1941 he did not subscribe to the facile optimism expressed in
this article of 1930: "The labor union will conquer."
View of Cannon Mills, Kannapolis, N.C., as it appeared in August, 1941 National Geographic article, "Tarheelia on Parade", by Leonard C. Roy
THE WAR IN THE SOUTH
WHEN Comrades Fred Beal and George Pershing, of the National Textile Workers Union and the Communist Party in America, sat down in Gastonia, N. C., last Spring to the business of organizing a strike in that lovely town, it may be imagined that, between puffs at his two-bit cigar, Brother Thomas F. McMahon, of the United Textile Workers of America, permitted himself the luxury of a horse-laugh. For Brother McMahon had himself, in his time, tried the introduction of the Brotherhood of Man into that amazing and sulphurous land below the Potomac, and, accordingly, cherished no longer even the puniest of illusions. But to great faith it is given to move mountains. And to the comrades it grandly fell to set off the war in the South.
If I say war, I do not at all mean that the situation down there at the moment, viewed in isolation, justifies the term. As I write this, there are no strikes, save for a feeble ghost at Marion, and Beal and the Gastonia strikers have been crushed with long prison terms. Indeed, it would be easy to believe that the cotton-mill barons, the police, the jackal newspapers, and all the forces of Law and Order have succeeded in putting down the rebellion of a people who, for the great part, were not even sure that they wanted to rebel. Nevertheless, Gastonia, if I mistake not, is the Lexington from which historians of the future will reckon the industrial struggle, the war of a thousand battles, which, so I believe, will convulse the South during the next decade. That war itself was inevitable. The stage was set. The entry of the Reds simply put it in motion. And, being in motion, it will now go forward inexorably. There will be lullslong ones, perhapsbut there will be hereafter no genuine cessation of hostilities until the war is fought and done.
To understand it one must know something of its central figure, the cotton-mill baronof his character and history. For years, he has been represented in the South as a double for the Little Brother to the Birds, and in the North as an unmitigated villainone part Simon Legree and three parts Satan. He is neither. He is, in fact, just what he was to begin with: a horse-trader, by which I mean to include all that race of factors, cross-road merchants, and money-grubbers in general, which, in the Old South, succeeded in raising itself above the poor whites economically, without, by any means, creating a distinct middle class. Hard-fisted, pious, and full of a puerile cunning, he is a realist, but it is such a realist as the old-time Negro-drover or backwoods usurer wasa realist who had thrown away the rose-colored glasses of the South, only to fix his gaze exactly at the end of his nose. At bottom, he is naive, even stupid. Pig-headed, colossally greedy, vain and ignorant, he is totally incapable of the notion of noblesse oblige. There are honorable exceptions to all this, of course, but here manifestly, I am concerned only with the average.
The cotton-mill barons medieval character, taken with
the circumstances, explains his rise to power, his displacement
of the gentleman planter as head of the Southern social order.
And, ironically enough, just because he cared nothing for the
good of society, he has rendered the South an incalculable
THE AMERICAN MERCURY 164
Dr. Broadus Mitchell of the Johns Hopkins has pretty well established it as a fact that the gentry of the South founded the cotton-mill industry below the Potomac, not in the hope of profit but to save the poor white, unable to compete with the freed Negro on the farm, from falling to the economic level of that freed Negro.1 But the early stages of industrializationeverywhere difficult since the level of production in an agricultural region hardly ever so far passes that of subsistence as to provide capital for factorieswere fraught, in the poverty-and-debt-ridden South, with almost insurmountable perils. Mortgages and credits, extended by machinery agents from the North, accounted for most of the mills south of the Mason-Dixon line in 1880. Industry down there literally faced the task of lifting itself by its own bootstraps. And, if it is clear that the survivors of the old gentry, being the only socially conscious group in the South, could alone open the way for industrialization, it is clear, too, that they were unfitted to carry out what they had begun. At business they were babes. Their very indifference to profits inevitably would have defeated their aim. For, if the poor white was to be saved, not ten mills but hundreds of mills were needed. And, in a land bled white of capital, the only way to pay for them was out of profits.
What was obviously needed was a leadership dedicated with unswerving singleness of purpose to the till, or, if you like, the trough. That leadership the old horse-trader, alone among Southerners, was fitted to supply. He stepped upon the stage to displace the gentry, to wrest profits from the mills over every obstacle, to devoteprior to 1910, at any rateevery cent of those profits to creating more mills and still more mills, to save the poor white. For the South, it is nothing that he was actuated only by the lust for greater and yet greater profits. It is everything that he created the bridge over which the white man passed to sanctuary.
Moreover, in saving the poor white, he inevitably saved something elsethe ancient social- economic pattern of the South, the plantation system. That is the meaning of the long hours, the wage which requires the labor of an entire family to maintain a standard of living, the mill-village, a sort of medieval fief, where every house, every school, every church, every teacher and preacher, nay, every word and thought, is owned by, or subject to, my lord, the baronin brief, of all those things in which the Yankee critic sees the hand of the black-birder and the galley- master, the proof of the barons villainy. They simply represent plantation standards and practices carried over into industry. The poor white had been bred in dependence. Of his old masters he had expected and demanded all thingswork, tools, houses, paternal care, freedom from responsibility. He possessed neither the means nor the inclination to get these things for himself. Between the standard of the Negro and responsibility for himself, he would have chosen the first. Necessity, thenand the naive acceptance of the only system he himself had ever known as the only possible onecaused the cotton-mill baron to carry the system on, and even to function within ituntil after 1910, at leastin very much the same way as the planter before him.
The South was immensely grateful. Ungiven to analysis, it had no true conception of the real character of the baron; it has, indeed, none today. What it saw (and, in the main, still sees) was thousands saved from the squalid standard of the Moor, and given more or less decent employment; free houses, schools, churches, salaries of teachers and preachers paid, every variety of welfare work supported; the rising prosperity which touched everybody. To its eyes these things could proceed only *from a noble soul, so the cult of the baron was born. The Charlotte Observer and other such dreadful sheets began their daily Te Deum in his honor. Legislatures poured out laws to aid and please him. All power became his.
Most grateful of all were the poor whites.
THE WAR IN THE SOUTH 165
They looked back to what they had escaped and congratulated themselves. Their natural envy of the baron was throttled by a vast thankfulness. A hedonistic, shiftless race, ambition bothered them but little. If it did, well, there was Blankville, the heart and center of the cotton-mill Southpopular account designates its founders and lordlings as having been a tinker, a peddler, and a brace of bastards! Anyone with the will might come up. Until after 1910, the baron himself lived very simply. He maintained the old easy relations of the plantation, called his workmen by their first names, feasted them at barbecues, occasionally had one in to dinner. His wife and daughters knew them familiarly and without snobbishness. Everything contributed to amazingly good feeling, and the baron moved among his subjects as hero and friend.
The inevitable result was that he came to accept these tributes, this gratefulness, as his due. Inevitably, he came to think of himself, not in the manner of the true aristocrat as under the debt of noblesse oblige, but as a gaudy Lord Bountiful, a sort of sun-king shedding light and leading, whose every deed was good just because it was his.
No Knight of the Holy Ghost ever battled for the Grail with a more profound conviction of the rightness of his cause than that with which the beleaguered baron wars in the South today His dominant emotion is outraged indignation. It is an emotion which the South in general and even the great body of mill-workers, as at present constituted, measurably share. The labor leaders are "alien" invaders, racketeers, stick-up men, mad Yankee guerrillas waging war on the South seventy years after; the mill-workers who strike or join unions are "traitors," outlaws; both alike are enemies not only of the baron but of all Southern society. A passion of patriotism sweeps the land. Add something of bewilderment, something more of fear, count in the Southern capacity for florid fancy, and you have the complex which conjures up a Red Peril, which beholds a foe, not to be tolerated, not to be treated with, but to be stamped out, extirpated, without quarter and without squeamishness.
The renegade to this view must be torn on the economic rack, starved into submission. To that end the reserve of labor which exists in the tenant-farmer class must be preserved. The baron serves notice on the Yankee manufacturer that further removal of factories to the South will not be welcomed. (A proposal for a new $5,ooo,ooo art cloth mill in Gaston county met with such hostility last Summer that it was abandoned.) Black-lists of all men who have taken part in strikes or joined unions are made up and circulated. Any traffic with union agents means dismissal. Spies swarm.
The police, the newspapers, officialdomdo they not exist to protect society? Well, right gladly they see their duty and do it. The killing of the police-chief at Gastonia was unquestionably precipitated by the badgering activities of his own officers. And before the shedding of blood at Marion, the zeal of the sheriff in hounding the strikers had been such as to arouse the protest of even the attorney for the mills. The newspapers bawl for syndicalism laws; and it is almost a foregone conclusion that the Legislatures of the Carolinas, at least, will enact such laws, designed to cripple all union activities, at their next sessions. Municipal corporations, as at Marion and Gastonia, may be counted on to suspend all those American rights which in these grand days have become so un-American.
The courts deal telling blows. Fair trials? For "traitors"
and "aliens"? Technically, yes. In fact, no. The
quizzing of the salesmen in the trial of the Gastonia strikers
established the mathematical impossibility of finding an
unprejudiced jury. Grant that, legally, at least, the judge was
fair, grant that most of the witnesses for the defense were as
obviously lying as were most of those for the State, grant even
the probability that one of the prisoners killed the Gastonia
police-chief, the fact remains that
THE AMERICAN MERCURY 166
Beal and his men were convicted before the hearing began.
The same thing precisely holds true in the case of Alfred Hoffman, U.T.W.A. organizer, convicted, with a group of strikers, at Marion on a highly dubious charge of "rioting." The simple truth is that, whatever the attitude of the judges, so long as witnesses share the dominant prejudices, so long as juries, composed of farmers, can be swayed by the magniloquent declaration of mill-paid attorneys that "the mills are the millowners to do with as they please, just as your farms are yours to do with as you please"the Beals and the Hoffmans must always be convicted, Gaston county grand juries must always, unless under great pressure, decline to proceed against the killers of an Ella May Wiggins, and a Marion sheriff must always go free.
But the single best weapon for putting down the "invader" and the "renegade" is Ku Kluxerythe repressed sadism, the native blood-lust, the horrible mob-instinct, which smoulders among the brutal and the ignorant everywhere in the South, and, above all, and ironically, among the mill-workers themselves. It is in bringing it into play that the police, the newspapers, and officialdom render their best service It is as though they said: "Here they are, boysthe alien and the traitor! Help yourselves!"
Of course, nothing so crude is actually said. It may even be true, as a general proposition, that these inciting agencies do not understand their own motives or clearly perceive their own objectives. But, out of a welter of passion, out of hidden depths of desire, there emerge editorials which play violently upon all this sectional hate and racial bigotry, which touch the springs which release all the classical Klan emotions. A powerful sheet advances the doctrine that since the Communists oppose the institutions of the land, they are not entitled to the protection of its laws. At Gastonia, the police stand idle while masked hoodlums destroy the strikers headquarters. When a mob roars through the streets of Gastonia and Charlotte, the gendarmes of those towns know nothing of itthey are blind and deaf.
Meanwhile, the local newspapers excuse the mobs outrages. On the eve of a Red pogrom in which a woman is run to earth and slain, the Gastonia Gazette warns the Communists that if they attempt to hold a meeting on their own leased property, "the good people of the town" will meet them with violence, and, in effect, justifies that violence beforehand. Officialdom investigates and learns nothing. Collusion? Probably not. Its whole outlook makes it inevitable that it should learn nothing. And so the Kluckers are not slow to see that here is their opportunity to sport and cavort, to drain the reservoir of their simian ferocity to the last thin drop.
Nor can it be said that Kluxery is roused and loosed only against the Reds. Every labor agitator, every striker, is a Bolshevik in the South. Neither the Kluckers nor their masters draw distinctions. True, the newspapers professed a vast love for the U.T.W.A. when the Gastonia battle was at its height, but when it organized the strike at Marion they turned on it, hoof and horn, branding its organizer, Hoffman, as an "alien" and bellowing idiotically about the gold of Moscow. This same Hoffman was kidnapped by Kluckers at Elizabethton and ridden out of Tennessee. And the U.T.W.A. organizer was hustled out of Ware Shoals, S.C., while the police looked complacently on. Significant, too, is the fact that the victims of the Gastonia whipping-mob were required to pledge, not that they would have nothing more to do with the Communists but that they would never again join a labor union. The Red Peril is simply the labor union peril.
But the baron and the Souththat reactionary South which
supports himare sadly mistaken, I suspect, when they assume
that they will succeed in repelling "invasion," in
stamping out "treason." They are mistaken when they
assume that the status quo can be successfully maintained.
They reckon without, are almost
THE WAR IN THE SOUTH 167
blind to, the changes that have been taking place down there for the past twenty years, and are still in progress. It is those changes upon which I predicate my assertion that the present war was inevitable.
In the first place, the conditions which they defend no longer have any justification in circumstances. After 1910 the Negro ceased to be an economic menace. Mills had so multiplied as to make the position of the poor white secure. Merely to give a man a job at a living wage was no longer to be entitled to his undying gratitude. Moreover, the industry was now producing a surplus which was not any more required for the building of new mills. That surplus the baron diverted to his private use, building ghastly burlesques of the Georgian mansions of the old South, acquiring fleets of automobiles. His daughter came home from the correct schools in Virginia with a gelid stare, mouthing of class. His wife acquired a lorgnette, joined the Colonial Dames, went abroad. The old easy relations between man and master went aglimmering. At the same time, all the fat posts in the mills began to be filled by the barons sons or the graduates of technical schools. The door was closed on the lint-head. A vast social and economic chasm opened.
Coincidentally, there arose in the South a group of people who began to see the baron realistically and to exhibit impatience with his outworn system and standards. They find voice today in such excellent newspapers as the Greensboro Daily News and the Raleigh News and Observer, flourish in such institutions as the University of North Carolina, despite the yelping of such paladins of the status quo as Dr. David Clark,2 editor of the Southern Textile Bulletin. They constitute a formidable foe to the baron and his reactionary viewpoint.
But a change even more significant than these is in process. The first truly industrial generation among Southern mill-workers has been born and comes to growth. As yet it is still, for the major part, in its teens, though the vanguard has moved into the twenties. This generation has never known competition with the Negro. It cares nothing for tradition. It can read. And in it is the restlessness, the questioning, of a restless and questioning age. About it, it hears a thousand smug professions which do not agree with the facts it sees; it becomes a little cynical, even begins to doubt the Plan of Salvation.
Bound to the bare necessities, it moodily observes the other classes about it swathed in luxuries, satiate with "flowers and furs and cheeks." It wants those things, means to have them, Heaven willing or no. It is starkly aware that the old easy rise of the doffer-boy to the presidency of the mills is a tale that is told. And, springing from the mills, it instinctively seeks its ends through group action. It is the raw material of a vast revolt.
Untouched by the conservatism of the American Federation of Labor, plastic, basically unsophisticated, eager, this new generation offers fertile soil for whatever promises, however vaguely or absurdly, an outlet for its aspirations and improvement in its status. That is why the Reds were not wholly mad when they fell upon the notion that the South was a promising field for their activities. And that is why, too, the war must go on, why McMahon, having taken the field, cannot withdraw; he simply dare not, for that would be to leave it to the comrades, who, while they can never hope to sell their nostrum to the Confederacy, might very conceivably, given a free hand, establish their union down there.
At the moment, the advantage in the struggle is obviously with
the baron and his allied reactionaries, and it will remain there,
I suspect, for some while to come. Though the youngsters begin to
breathe heavily, few Southern mill-workers above thirty are
material for successful unionization. They may be disgruntled,
but they are not rebelliousthe old tradition is too strong
upon them. A Klucker frolic now and thenand they will not
ask for more.
THE AMERICAN MERCURY 168
But, as time goes on, the support of the South will more and more fall away from the baron; his foes at home will become more and more formidable. Indeed, the reactionary South is even now, plainly enough, making its last great stand. The old social-economic system is breaking up. As the rising generation comes to ascendancy among the mill-workers, Southern strikes will begin to be won. And the ultimate outcome is as inevitable as the cycle of the sun: the labor union will conquer.
That is written plain for the baron to read in the history of every similar struggle in every older industrial region in the world. But there we come back to it: he is ignorant, he knows no history. Nor would it make any difference if he did.
He would still insist, in his pig-headed way, that, in his case, at least, the demands of labor are impossible, that unionization means ruin, and that higher wages and shorter hours spell bankruptcy for the industry. On the face of it, he has an excellent case. It certainly is true that, for the past seven or eight years, the great part of the mills have continually vociferated that they were not making money, and that their balance sheets have pretty well borne out the claim. But let us see.
The post-war years--1918-20--saw the greatest boom in the history of the industry. The heavens opened: money rained. The baron was ecstatic, transported. Then that fellow accursed of all times, the tax-collector, yanked him flaming from Paradise to despair. Under the then existing laws, what amounted to a double tax was assessed against corporate earnings. As such, they were subject to the excess profits toll; as declared dividends paid to the stockholder, they were again levied on as private income. From the first there could be no escape; but the baron speedily devised a device by which to evade the secondthe stock dividend. It magically converted income into capital, and had the additional merit of cutting down future excess profit levies, since these were reckoned on a basis of capitalization. Everywhere the mills resorted to it. Stock dividends of 50% and 100% were common. A mill at Greenville, S. C., declared one of 300%.
But there was no corresponding increase in productive equipment. To escape taxation the industry had simply fallen into the embrace of that Old Man of the Seaovercapitalization. Consider the case of a typical mill. It is capitalized at $1,500,000. In the first six months of 1929, it showed a profit of $51,000 or 3%. Yet the value of the plant is (on a replacement basis) only about $500,000, and it originally cost only a half or two-thirds that much. It should properly carry a capitalization of, say, no more than $75o,ooo, certainly not more than $1,000,000. Thus, $75o,ooo or, at the minimum, $500,000 of the present capitalization is not capital at all, in the sense of productive equipment or the funds necessary to the operation of such equipment, but merely, in relation to the mill, at least, idle money. And the dividend actually earned on the true capital is not 6% annually but something more than 10% or 12%.
This over-capitalization makes it possible for a host of lesser incubi to bedevil the industry. There is, for example, the so-called marginal mill, that is, one bought or built on a shoestring; one accounted for by mortgages and mortgage bonds; one which the baron expects to pay for itself, meet high interest rates, pay him a juicy salary, and still show handsome profits. There is, too, the mill which, without being marginal, swings to the opposite extreme from the general and is under- capitalized, so that it must limp along on antiquated or worn-out machinery.
Plainly enough, neither of these mills has any business
existing. They largely explain the over- production which dogs
the industry. Nor could they exist if the industry in general
were efficient. Their own higher basic production costs would
quickly eliminate them if it were not for the fact that the
majority of the mills are staggering along under a top-heavy load
of money bags, and so must drive up the price of their goods
beyond its natural level.
THE WAR IN THE SOUTH 169
Much of the over-production, to which the baron charges all his woes, has, however, no existence in fact. It is simply a psychopathic obsession, artfully played uponperhaps createdby the barons selling agents in the East. It is not necessary to go into a detailed analysis of their methods here. It is enough that these gentry compete among themselves by under-bidding and cutthroat methods, and, accordingly, find it to their advantage to lead the baron to pile up a large volume of goods by glowing reports of market conditionsof which the baron is profoundly ignorant as a ruleand then play on his over-production complex, his fear of a dead market and a possible receivership, until, in panic, he is ready to accept any price at all. Obviously, it is an idiotic system.
The simple truth is that if the cotton-mill industry in the South is not making and showing healthy profits, it is because it is the most inefficiently organized in the country. The cure for its woes is apparent: it is the New Industrialism. By that I mean the theory which not only accepts high wages and short hours as inevitable, but professes to see them as creating a vast new market and, hence, wholly desirable; which eliminates the waste caused by too many small units and casts out the unfit by means of the merger; which attacks the problem of profit from the angle of mass production and cost per unit; which adjusts its capital to its needs; and which controls its own marketing system. The doctrine has obvious limitations, but, within them, its claims cannot be doubted; consider, for example, the possible effect on the over-production of cotton goods if the wages of the lint-head were so raised that he might change his underwear twice a week rather than once, as now the custom is!
Indeed, the war in the South is, in its final aspect, a struggle between the old and worn-out Southern social-economic system and this New Industrialism, with the thrust of the latter converging relentlessly on the baron as protagonist of the former. What he needs to do is not to fight, but to set his house in order for the coming of the inevitable. But that is exactly what he wont dowhat, in fact, he is probably quite incapable of doing. His talents are fitted to primitive industrialism, to the small unit, to higgling and barter, not to organization in the grand manner. For years the experts he has called into consultation have been telling him that his only salvation lies in the merger and the selling combine. But he is incapable of tearing away from the trough immediately before him long enough to see the vaster and more promising troughs ahead. Doggedly, he holds his gaze to the end of his nose. The giant merger which was proposed over a year ago failed, I am told, because most of the mills involved were over-capitalized, and because the owning companies refused to take steps to reduce capitalization to a reasonable figure. Selling combines cannot be formed because the baron is an incurable individualist, suspicious of his fellows and incapable of working in organization.
Because all these things are true, I guess that the end of the
war will see, not only the victory of the labor union and the
beginning of striking changes in the South generally, but also
the passing of the cotton-mill baron as a type. Become an
anachronism and having already served his purpose, he will vanish
from the stage as inexorably as did the gentleman of the
agricultural era before him. The New Industrialism will come, and
with it a new race of industrial grand dukes, to be recruited, I
suppose, from the commercial Babbitts of North and South alike.
Now and then, of course, a baron will pass over into the ranks of
the new peerage, but, on the whole, he seems to be destined to
fade out. The character which made him becomes his doom.
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